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Casio EX-Z850 Video Problems
After buying a new Casio EX-Z850 digital camera, I was disappointed to find that the video quality wasn't as good as its predecessor. See for yourself.
Comparing video with the EX-Z750
When it was time to buy a new digital camera, I zoomed in on the Casio EX-Z750. After reading Ken Rockwell's review, it seemed that this camera had everything I wanted. Then I found out that the EX-Z850 was new to the market and I hunted down a good deal. I figured the EX-Z850 would be an improvement on the EX-Z750. Not in everything, apparently.
Shortly after ordering it, I read that the EX-Z850's video wasn't up to par, compared with the EX-Z750. These observations came from Casio Talk and Mike Davidson. The delivery truck was on its way from the United States to Canada, so I could only wait.
After receiving the camera, I tried it out. I liked the large, bright LCD screen, anti-shake function, superb ergonometrics, quick response, long battery life and past movie mode. But I had nothing to compare the video against. So, I went out locally and purchased a EX-Z750GY (a grey body and one of the few remaining EX-Z750's in town, as it is no longer being manufactured). If fact, Casio recently announced a newer 10 Mega-Pixel model.
Read on for the video comparison...
The Proof is in the Playground
I shot 4 test videos, all of the same subject (not very exciting ... a pan of a park play structure). Two are from the EX-Z750 (HQ and NQ) and two are from the EX-Z850 (HQ and NQ). ISO mode was set to AUTO on each. All other parameters were the same.
I've uploaded the raw video files. I sought a way to compare results on the page, but decided against it because post-processing would alter the video data and negate any true comparison. No, look at the raw M2S4 video files, which have not been modified in any way. Playback, for me (on a PC) is best through Real Player (v10.5).
- A-750-HQ.AVI ( 9,615 KB )
- A-750-NQ.AVI ( 4,494 KB )
- A-850-HQ.AVI ( 10,385 KB )
- A-850-NQ.AVI ( 5,231 KB )
What's the Difference?
There is an obvious and discernible quality difference between the EX-Z750 and the EX-Z850.
I can only speculate. If you've ever edited JPG files and tried to "sharpen" the image and sharpen it too much, you end up with edge artifacts (like those seen in the EX-Z850 video). The technique can bring a slightly out-of-focus image into focus, but it's not a miracle cure. There's a point of diminishing returns and it would appear to me, that whatever changes were made from the EX-Z750 to the EX-Z850, the engineers went a tad "too far". The image is contrasty and the edge artifacts are very pronounced, compared to the EX-Z750.
The problem is exacerbated by contrasty, horizontal and sub-horizontal lines. The playback seems to "shimmer". (I first noticed the problem while taking footage of my daughter, who was running around on a wooden deck. The "shimmer" was so bad, that it took my focus from the subject, "upstaging" her.)
The files presented here are, admittedly, a one-off test. I've not checked other lighting conditions, subject matter, setting changes, etc. (Shoot, that's not MY job! You would think that Casio would be doing this stuff!) Perhaps I'll submit a bill for my Q.C. efforts.
Given the nature of the issue, video shot in flat light, of low contrast subjects, would lessen or eliminate the effect.
What Can Be Done?
I'd recommend returning the EX-Z850 camera and buying an EX-Z750 if you can (and if the video mode is important to you). This isn't really an option for us, as restocking fees and shipping costs would be nearly 1/3 of the purchase price.
What does Casio say? Is far as I know, there's been no official word. I have seen posted emails (purportedly from Casio Customer Support) suggesting that the video capability is ancillary to still imaging. That this may be true, it doesn't explain why the video in the newer camera is WORSE than the older camera. (Video become MORE ancillary?) Bah! If anything, the reverse is true. We don't own a video recorder, precisely because we've come to rely on our digital camera to capture the few video snippets we take.
Frankly, I am very disappointed that Casio has not acknowledged the issue and dealt with it head on. That they haven't is almost an acknowledgement that they cannot address the issue with a simple "fix".
Can it be fixed with a firmware update? I hope so, as it appears we're kinda stuck with our EX-Z850 (though I've had thoughts of putting it in the EX-Z750 box and returning it to our local store, hoping the clerk wouldn't notice the switch). If Casio isn't gonna play "fair", why should I?
I called Casio Canada, to see what they knew and they claimed not to be aware of the problem. This seems to be the standard response that people are getting from their inquiries. Unacceptable. Especially in the face of such solid evidence.
Bottom line - Only time will tell.
August Update: Firmware v1.1B
At the beginning of the month, Casio released two new firmware versions: v1.1 and v1.1B.
They both provide support for SDHC, (cards having more than 2GB of storage capacity). Version "B" does more, improving the quality of the HQ video mode. Unfortunately, the higher quality comes at a price, paid with a narrower field of view (approximately 40% more narrow).
Below are raw video tests using the v1.1B firmware. The subject matter is the same as the original video comparison (children's play structure). No post processing was done. Only the file names were changed.
As mentioned on the firmware download page, the new firmware does not affect the "Normal Quality" or "Long Play" video modes - only "High Quality". But boy, does it ever fix the quality! The new video looks nice and sharp. The only drawback, is the 40% loss of the field of vision. It's too bad that there is a trade-off, but it's worth it.
Congrats to Casio engineers for crafting this "fix".
While it's great that Casio rectified the High Quality video quality issue, I give the company poor marks for the manner in which the problem was handled. Not immediately acknowledging the problem, no clear "official" position and conflicting information all eroded my confidence in Casio.
November Update: Firmware v1.1B makes images blurry.
Thanks to a comment from Leonardo, I now realize that v1.1b (the video fix firmware) causes a discernible degradation of image quality.
The new firmware, released in August, was meant to remedy a known video quality problem. While it does help the video issue, it also reduces still image quality (something that Casio fails to disclose)! This is unacceptable.
There were already several compromises made, in order to obtain acceptable video quality, with the v1.1b firmware release (a) the fix is only good for HQ mode (doesn't change the NQ or LP modes) and (b) the fix reduces the FOV for the HQ video.
Recently, Leonardo made the shocking discovery that still image quality is reduced when using the v1.1b firmware. Here is his proof, which is posted on the website "Digital Photography Review".
After receiving his comment, I ran my own little test, the result of which, you can see in the image on the right. One is taken using firmware version 1.10 and the other using v1.1b (the video 'fix'). There is an obvious and undesirable reduction in quality for the picture taken using v1.1b (all other things being equal).
Outrageous! I retract my kudos to the Casio engineers. The company, its engineers and support personnel should really clean up their act. The EX-Z850 camera fiasco has been handled poorly and EX-Z850 owners have an unacceptable choice ... good videos at the expense of field of vision AND still image quality ... or good still images and crappy video. (Kind of like voting for a U.S. President ... no choice is ideal, eh?)
My recommendation? Use v1.10 and don't use the videos for anything other than sharing on the Internet. Oh ... and write a nasty letter to Casio. IMO, EX-Z850 owners should be given a free camera upgrade WHEN and IF Casio can manage to make a camera that is as good as an EX-Z750.